Aiding a town’s turnaround
Grad students partner with Dubuque on sustainability initiative
University of Iowa graduate students will partner with the city of Dubuque on nine sustainability projects over the next two years. Their ambitious list of projects includes researching and mapping renewable energy sources that will help keep the city's lights on when a power plant closes in 2015, and working with the four colleges and other major institutions in the area to link them with local food producers.
The students' efforts are part of the UI School of Urban and Regional Planning's Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC), which was launched in 2009.
This fall, the UI will assist Dubuque community leaders on the first five yearlong projects, which are all related to the city's Sustainable Dubuque Initiative, started in 2006. The students are scheduled to complete four additional projects during the 2012-13 year. The UI Office of the Provost and Office of the Vice President for Research have committed $40,690 per year to support the project.
"Here was a town—like a lot of other towns in Iowa—that had seen better days and had high rates of unemployment back in the '80s and '90s and lost some industry, and is using sustainability to help turn things around with regard to economic improvement," says Chuck Connerly, director of the UI School of Urban and Regional Planning. "This is a nice city to be identified with, and our students will feel like they're part of something important. This is an outstanding educational enterprise."
UI faculty met with Dubuque leaders in April 2011 to finalize the first five projects. Five groups of seven students will work with local project partners on the following projects:
- Indicators and indicator measurements for the city's 11 sustainability principles
- Renewable energy asset mapping
- Portrait of poverty in Dubuque
- Local foods and local institutions
- The design of a Green and Healthy Homes program
"Part of the excitement in partnering with the university and its students is that there is so much going on in Dubuque," said Cori Burbach, sustainable community coordinator for the City of Dubuque. "We have a small sustainability office that is working with partners in the community to accomplish these projects. We have such community buy-in and there is so much opportunity right now.